By Jason Bramwell
The next decade will see industries transition to a Cloud-enabled world where work can be accomplished anywhere, anytime. This will especially be true of the accounting profession, according to Intuit, as such tools as Cloud-connected smartphones and tablets will enable firms to provide clients with an "accountant in their pocket" at all times.
In its recently released study – Intuit 2013 Future of Accountancy Report – the online accounting software company provided a view of the demographic, economic, social, and technology trends that will shape the accounting profession in the next ten years.
Prepared by research and consulting firm Emergent Research in partnership with Intuit and thirty-seven top influencers in accounting from around the world, the new report is an update to the Intuit 2020 Report: Future of the Accounting Profession report released in 2011.
"With increased competition, technology advances, globalization, and demographic shifts, trust will remain paramount in the relationship between accounting professionals and the clients they serve", Jill Ward, senior vice president and general manager of the Intuit Accountant and Advisor Group, said in a written statement. "The trends happening within the industry provide several opportunities for accountants to deliver the service their clients expect and demand."
According to Intuit, technology will increasingly be woven into the fabric of the accounting industry in the next decade. The profession will be reshaped as accounting firms use Cloud computing platforms and applications, combined with advanced analytical tools, large data sets, and social and mobile computing.
Small businesses are confronting a massive shift in technology, and they must adopt those technologies into their business processes to effectively compete in the marketplace", Joe Woodard, founder of accounting and software consulting firm Woodard Consulting Group, said in a written statement.
"To best serve their clients, accounting professionals need to embrace new technologies quickly, understand the best way to incorporate those technologies into the small business process, and proactively guide their clients through to full adoption", Woodward said. Woodard hosts Scaling New Heights, a conference conducted in cooperation with Intuit that provides training on Intuit QuickBooks and selected products that integrate with QuickBooks. "As an industry, we must take the lead and be out in front of the coming changes."
Smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and other mobile devices will become the main tools accounting professionals will use to manage their workloads and client services. These technologies will allow for more flexibility around when, where, and how work is done.
"Being on-site will become much less important, and these tools will enable – and often require – anytime, anywhere work", Intuit noted in the report. "Cloud services and products will also allow accounting professionals to interact virtually with clients on a 'same data, same time' basis, eliminating many of the bottlenecks associated with PC or server-based data that is only easily accessible in one location."
By using Cloud technology and advanced computing tools, accounting firms will realize effective automation of data collection, improved data quality, and a reduction in the time required for data validation, according to Intuit.
"These productivity improvements will shift the focus of accounting from computation to consulting as clients increasingly rely on their accounting professionals to analyze business information, support decisions, and provide strategic advice", the report stated. "Greater automation, coupled with a growing interest on the part of businesses to outsource part and even all of their bookkeeping and financial operations, will also create new opportunities for accounting firms to take over these functions for their clients."
Intuit pointed out in its study that having an effective online presence will also be critical for accounting firms in the next decade.
"Just as consumers use websites and social media to compare and review products, potential clients are already going online to choose their accounting service providers", Intuit noted in the report. "Firms and professionals who use online content to help build their brand by demonstrating experience, domain knowledge, and thought leadership will be at a competitive advantage."
While personal client interaction will continue, virtual accounting services will become more of an industry norm.
"Clients will expect real-time support that is delivered when, where, and how they want it", the report stated. "Online customer relationship management and support systems will grow in importance. High-touch, face-to-face client contact will not go away, but it will be augmented by virtual support and collaboration systems. The use of customer relationship management systems will also increase and automate simpler support tasks and provide clients with self-serve options."